My job

I’m tough on Eli. That’s my job as a dad, to set boundaries, to provide direction, to enforce rules. Sure, I play with the boy, and we cut up every day, but often I’m more the disciplinarian than the buddy.

It’ll be evening, and I’ll tell Eli it’s time to brush his teeth, and he’ll skip right past the bathroom and giggle. I’ll say I mean it, that he needs to walk his five-year-old self into the bathroom right this instant, and he’ll come in. But then he’ll start talking loudly or hopping while I brush.

“Eli, where does crazy energy belong?” I’ll ask.

“Outside,” he’ll reply, a little dejected, toothpaste dripping down his chin.

He’ll behave for a few seconds, but then he’ll try to tickle me or decide he wants to fill the sink with water.

“That’s it,” I’ll blurt out. “If you can’t stand still while I do this, I’m going to have to put you in time out.”

And then he’ll be good. Time outs scare the boy straight.

Monday, I dropped Eli off for the first day of Skyhawk camp, a week-long class for basketball, soccer, and baseball. Eli stayed close to me when we first arrived. He didn’t know any of the other boys and girls, who each dribbled basketballs while waiting for the class to start.

Without a ball, Eli couldn’t join in. So he and I stood and watched and waited. That’s also my job as a dad. To hang around in situations like that. To just be there.

After a few minutes, camp began. The coach beckoned the kids, lined them up to shoot hoops, and redistributed the basketballs. Eli got a ball this time, and I watched him wait his turn, make a basket, and get in line again.

Soon, a boy’s turn came around who didn’t have a basketball. “Can this young man use someone else’s ball?” the coach asked.

None of the kids twitched except Eli, who raised his arm. “He can have mine,” Eli said.

That small gesture, my boy speaking up like that in front of strangers, my boy gladly sharing, got me right in my gut. And I was profoundly proud.

Eli’s not perfect. I know that. But he’s generous and kind and good most of the time. And I need to tell him—and show him—that I get that.

As a dad, that’s my job, too, maybe my most important one.


3 Responses to “My job”

  1. 1 feeddunk June 18, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Your doing a fine “job”! Your a good dad.

  2. 2 D S Gardner June 18, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Thanks for writing this entry. I feel better knowing I’m not alone in having the same feelings.

  3. 3 lesleyfamily June 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Duncan, I don’t know if I’m doing a good job, but Sally hasn’t canned me yet, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

    Dave, it’s funny how much similarity there is among our boys, and for that matter, most kids about their age.

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